Before we get deep into the N.T. church and how it was organized, we will start with a parable that Jesus gave his disciples about the church and what it would become. Jesus used this parable to give a glimpse into the future of the church. It is an allegory and is not to be taken as fact or doctrine.
In Matthew 13:31-32 Jesus tells the parable of the grain of mustard seed that was planted and it became a tree so that all kinds of birds came and lodged in it. Jesus uses this parable to explain to his disciples what the kingdom of heaven (the future church) might look like and what to expect. It is interesting to note that a mustard plant when grown might become a large bush, but not a “tree.” Here Jesus is making the point that the “tree” or “church” will grow and become large and important part of the future growth of mankind and what they will come to believe.
Do make note that in this parable that Jesus used, he made no distinction of what “kinds” of birds would come and lodge in the branches. It is interesting to note that as we look back on the history of the “church”, that all kinds of beliefs, both good and bad, have come to us based upon “rightly dividing” the word of God and those who have “perverted” what God’s Word means and then created false beliefs. All of this has come to us as part of the “church” tree. The N.T. church leaders were constantly warning the churches about heresies and false teachings. At a later time, we will expand more on heresies and false doctrine. For now, we will proceed with the early church, its leaders, and the doctrines which they taught.
The N.T. church in its infancy had a simple organization. There was a pastor/shepherd of the church who was chosen by one of the disciples or by Paul. As the number of churches grew, it became apparent that some kind of leadership progression or overseer responsibility was needed to establish order and help the new church get rid of bad teaching and false doctrine. This is where positions in the church came into being.
Jesus had given instructions to his disciples about leadership. He laid this out in two passages. The first is Luke 25-27, and the second is John 13:15. Jesus gave this instruction to the disciples: 1. You are a servant to the church, 2. Jesus gave them the example of being a servant,.3. You are to protect the church from false beliefs. These were simple instructions given by Jesus to the disciples. In other passages, Jesus also told them that the Holy Spirit would lead, instruct, and guide them in what to do.
The Apostle Paul was very much guided and instructed by the Holy Spirit. His knowledge of the Jewish religion and its organization was instrumental in what he did with a new church and how it was set up. He would appoint a shepherd for the church and choose spirit filled men in the church to serve the needs of the church and its shepherd. As the church grew, so would the responsible positions in the church. He left very specific qualifications for anyone that would fill those positions.
The growth of the early church also brought growing pains. We will address these issues next. We will see what was in the early church organization and why.